On Painting Glass

One of the most difficult things, for me, is to get realistic looking glass when painting in Photoshop. As a great deal of my art is architectural, it is a very important part of each painting. Just as the eyes are important in painting portraits, I believe that the windows are what bring life to the building in architectural rendering. They are the “eyes” into the the building.

Unfortunately, each window seems to be done in a different way. I have never really come up with a set pattern, but here are some tips that I use. A window may be as simple as a solid color or a gradient. On a more complex level, the glass will consist of a multitude of layers. I will start with the interior, or what is on the other side of the glass. Then I will add the glass material itself, color, texture (if there is a texture to the glass), and try to arrive at the proper transparency level. Next comes the effect of the environment on the glass, a specular gradient, and then whatever is being reflected on the glass. Each of these will be put in place with different opacities and different blending modes. Again, none of the methods seem to be the same for each window, but by experimenting you can get it right.

There a number of factors to take into consideration when painting glass. Here are a few:

  • Transparency level of the glass
  • What is inside the window
  • What is outside the window
  • How the light is hitting the glass
  • The angle of the glass to the viewer
  • The specular light
  • The shadows
  • What is being reflected
  • Window treatments, such as drapes or blinds inside
  • The light inside
  • The light outside
  • The time of day

Sometimes, none of the above apply. If you notice in the rendering, I simply put a brighter light inside the only visible door to one of the condo units to make it a focal point of the image. Long live artistic license!

Comments are off for this post